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Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for February 17
Host: Keith Olbermann
HOW DID DUBIOUS REPORTER JEFF GANNON GET A WHITE HOUSE PRESS PASS?: Ron Hutcheson, president, White House Correspondents Association; Greg Mitchell, editor, Editor & Publisher magazine
AMB. JOHN NEGROPONTE IS NAMED NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Robin Wright, Washington Post diplomatic correspondent
WHY IS WARNER BROS. GIVING A MAKEOVER TO BUGS BUNNY AND DAFFY DUCK?: Harry Shearer, "The Simpsons"
HOW ARE NEW YORKERS AND TOURISTS REACTING TO "THE GATES" IN CENTRAL PARK?: Monica Novotny, "Countdown" correspondent
Read the transcript to the 8 p.m. ET show
OLBYWATCH GUIDE: KO started out with the Gannon story, continuing with his sarcastic attack on the Bush administration and WH Press office. He did share some new information, including the fact that Gannon was there as far back as Ari Fleischer. KO peppered his report with the usual incredulity over this story, even claiming that Talon was a fake news site--that is a new one--and that Gannon got his press pass before the fake(sic)news site was even up.
His first guest on the story, Greg Mitchell, reliably stuck to KO's and the Democrats lines, Bush has the worst record with the press of any President in recent history, McConnell and Fleischer say they don't know how Gannon got in but it is their responsibility (implying they are lying) yada yada yada.
As the story progressed, it became apparent that at first Gannon was writing for GOPUSA, so there was a news site involved, although KO never corrected his earlier claim that there was no news site Gannon was reporting for at first.
During Fleischer's tenure as Press Secretary, after Gannon asked some question that Fleischer found too reflecting of advocacy, he checked into Gannon's background, made a statement saying advocacy journalists should not be there, and denied him a pass. Bobby Eberle, the owner of GOPUSA, called Fleischer and convinced him that GOPUSA was not an official GOP site so Fleischer let Gannon stay.
Much was made of the fact that Maureen Dowd has said she was denied a pass, although on a personal note she is one of the few writers I simply cannot read because her writing is so sophomoric and irrelevant. She goes after everyone, but in a silly manner reminiscent of a high school creative writing class, and is an embarassment to journalism as far as I am concerned.
However, KO's next guest, someone who is in more of a position to know than just about anyone, Ron Hutcheson of Knight Ridder who is also the President of the WH correspondents Association, pretty much undermined all the criticisms that KO had brought forth. Among other things, he pointed out that the WH Press room has always been filled with "coconuts" and there are at least a dozen other ones like Gannon in there right now, and have been for thirty years.
According to Hutcheson what this really points out is that access is very easy to get to the WH press room, and isn't that what we want? He said he wants to make access even easier, because the last thing he wants is difficulty of access, and that means that you are going to get a lot of people who ask questions from "outer space" but that that had always been going on and the alternative was worse--lack of access.
He also took it on himself to contradict KO's point about Dowd, saying that Maureen Dowd could get in there anytime she wants, all she would have to do is call down there and show up for a daily pass. On the responsibility issue that Fleischer and McConnell have for allowing Gannon, he said that it is unlikely that they would have known because the decision is made much lower in their offices than they are, very low he said. The implication from Hutcheson was that because there are so many fruits and nuts in there anyway, the Press Secretary usually doesn't bother too much with it and lets the lowest level assistant handle it.
It very much reminded me of the debate going on now about indecency legislation in the media---everyone hears or sees things they find offensive and sure wishes their kids didn't hear that---but what are you going to do about it without violating the first amendment? It appears the same with WH press passes, if you set down too hard a rule, you will lose the freedom of the press you need in situations like this, so you take the bad with the good.
The most important other story tonight was the Negroponte appointment by Bush today, in which KO began the story by asking "is he the right man for the job???" immediately implying, "of course not". Gee, let's see, Condi wasn't competent, Gonzales is bad, gee, every single Republican that gets nominated for anything is no good in KO world, if KO was reporting on my write up tonight, it would be the derogatory question, is the well known Republican Napablogger the right person for the Olbywatch job??? Shock Gasp Moan!!!!
In this case KO, the answer is Yes, he is right for the job because as usual you are wrong. Not every single Republican is automatically an object of rejection and derision because Bush appoints them. When every single Bush appointment is derided as wrong, KO loses all credibility, if he had any anyway. He is certainly wrong about Negroponte.
The real problem here is the cynical way in which KO doesn't really care about the news or facts, he is going to appeal to his target demographic of uninvolved non voting college kids which means to KO a far left presentation of the "news" with lots of ridicule of the right. Very cynical and insulting to his audience, but here it is.